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Peaks and plains

On the exact same day last week, the Toronto Star published two articles about housing. The first one, this one here, is about how “Toronto has protected huge parts of the city from anything denser than detached or semi-detached houses” and how this has resulted in an “uneven city.” The second article, this opinion piece, is about the “many repercussions to replacing little bungalows.” And one of the implied repercussions is that 3-storey sun blockers that invade privacy might actually kill people. Hmm.

In effect, these are the two sides of this debate. If you zoom out and look at Toronto, you will largely see a contrasting and uneven city of tall buildings and low-rise housing. Instead of building like Paris, which is consistently mid-rise — but also far denser on average than Toronto — we have chosen peaks and large plains to constrain new housing. And if you zoom in across those plains, you’ll find many areas without sidewalks, along with people, such as the author of the second article above, who believe that nothing more than a single storey is appropriate for human health.

All of this has persisted because it has been politically popular. But time continues to show us that it actually runs counter to our goals of building an inclusive and globally competitive city region. Thankfully, it feels like we are finally reaching a tipping point.

Photo by Jackson Case on Unsplash


  1. John Daly

    I meant to reply to this post a while back and say, I dunno. Judging from their market behaviour, a lot of people like living in houses and driving cars, rather than living stacked in high-rises or mid-rises and relying on slow and crowded transit. And they moved into neighbourhoods of single-family houses expecting those areas would stay that way. Cheers JD


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